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Every NFL Team's Top Difference Maker

Football is a team game, but in every team lies a heart, a pulse, an energy that unites each and every other player. Who are those players? Who is the leader? Who is the ultimate difference maker?

Some players leave their mark with raw talent and ability, others do it by being emotional leaders. The best of them know how to do it both ways. This is an article outlining each and every team’s difference maker. Some you may have not heard of, others are no brainers. Each team’s ultimate difference maker will be determined on three different categories. The first will be playmaking ability. How much influence does this player have on determining the outcome of the game? Second, how much of a locker room presence does this player have? Does he possess the respect and reverence necessary to leave an impression on the rest of his teammates? Last, what kind of raw talent does this player have? Does he have the ability to leave an impression on his teammates and lead by example?

40 AFC North

39 Baltimore Ravens - Marshal Yanda (G)

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

So you have to be pretty damn good if you’re going to be your team’s ultimate difference maker and you're an offensive lineman. His skills don’t only make him the Raven’s best player, but has him landing atop the throne of guards. Yanda’s fridge-like frame is pretty deceptive of his abilities, do not let his size deceive you. His ultra quick feet, flexibility and strength have him looking like a dancing bear on the field. Getting around him is basically like trying to get around Mag The Mighty in Game of Thrones. He allowed just one sack in 706 passing plays, and thanks to him, Baltimore ranked 3rd in the league in running plays for 10+ yards. His run blocking efficiency rating of 89 was 2nd among guards, and pass blocking efficiency rating of 98.2 was third. Combine all of these stats, and you have the culmination of someone who is “master of his craft.”

38 Cincinnati Bengals - A.J. Green (WR)

Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Green is the embodiment of efficiency for WR’s in the NFL. For a player who wasn’t utilized much in the underneath game, he still managed the 2nd highest passer rating when targeted (121.9). On top of this, only 7 receivers with at least 100 targets caught a higher percentage of their targets than Green. In the red zone, the Bengals targeted him the most on the team, and he still managed a 10th best catching percentage in the red zone for WR’s with 100 targets or more. He’s a consistent receiver who plays the “go big or go home” game. Statistically speaking, Green’s 1,297 yards and 10 TD season won’t be shattering any record books. But his dependability and playmaking skills are what give this player the “ultimate difference maker” accolade.

37 Cleveland Browns - Joe Thomas (T)

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a bit of a contradiction, the biggest players in the NFL get the least amount of attention. Joe Thomas epitomizes this. Although he may play the position that gets overlooked the most—besides fullbacks, sorry John Kuhn—he is the ultimate difference maker for the Cleveland Browns. One can only imagine where his team would be without him, albeit it’s pretty hard to envision a worse version of the Browns. First and foremost, he’s never missed a single snap, that’s 9,565 snaps. Amidst this epic run, in the 2016 season, he allowed just 2 sacks, 1 hit, and 21 hurries. He ended the season with the league's best pass blocker rating of 93.6. What’s more incredible, the Browns averaged 2.80 seconds a throw, far above the league average of 2.64 seconds. That’s like competing in a 100 yard dash, running 20 more yards than everybody else, and still winning!

36 Pittsburgh Steelers - Antonio Brown (WR)

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The stats speak volumes... Antonio Brown caught 136 passes for 1,834 yards with 10 TD’s in 2016. He ended up falling just short of Marvin Harrison’s record for most passes caught in a single season (143) and landed No. 4 all time for most receiving yards caught in a season (just behind Jerry Rice's record of 1,848 in 1995). As the NFL becomes a pass heavy game, and more rules are being implemented to protect the QB, the league is becoming a WR centric league. Make no mistake about it, Antonio Brown is the emblem of this movement. Behind all the glitter and gold of his monstrous season, Brown ranked No. 1 in effective yards. That means yards that helped determine the outcome of the game, not taking into account garbage time stats. Let’s put this simply — Antonio Brown almost broke two single season records for WR’s, and still managed to accumulate the most meaningful yards out of any wide receiver last season. If that doesn’t make you Mr. Clutch, then I don’t know what will.

35 NFC North

34 Chicago Bears - Alshon Jeffery (WR)

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Is it a coincidence that the Bears ended 8-8 in the 2014 season, and their star player was battling with hamstring issues all season? How about last season? The Bears lost 10 games and Alshon Jeffery only played 9 out of the entire season? The answer is no, it is not a coincidence. Despite having to deal with injuries the past 2 years, Jeffrey was still able to put together a respectable 2 seasons. Last year he put up an impressive an 89.7 yards per-game average, which ended up being 7th best in the league. He is undoubtedly the most gifted player on the Bears team, and without him, they suffer a lot. But let’s be honest, the Bears haven’t been good in a while, and they’re in rebuilding mode. Jeffery is a diamond in the ruff, who demands attention when he’s actually on the field. So although watching the Bears trying to contend with the Vikings and Packers will be like watching David against Goliath, Jeffrey will remain the team’s ultimate difference maker going into the 2016 season.

33 Detroit lions - Ezekiel Ansah (LB)

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2013 draft, the Lions selected Ansah with the 5th pick in the draft. One year later, they lost their best defensive player, Ndamukong Suh. In his third year with Lions, the Ghanaian linebacker catapulted himself into defensive stardom and wrecked havoc on opposing offenses. He ended the season with 14.5 sacks (3rd in the league) and 4 forced fumbles (2nd in the league). What is most impressive about Ansah’s spectacular season wasn’t that he did it without Suh, but for the majority of the season, he did it with backup defensive tackles. Despite being the lone start on a mediocre defensive squad, and having team’s game plan their offenses around him, he still managed to have a breakout season. Now with the 2016 season approaching, and a healthier Lions defense getting ready to suit up, watch for Ansah to take the league by storm and pancake the hell of out of some offensive linemen.

32 Green Bay Packers - Aaron Rodgers (QB)

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Well this one’s a no brainer. Let’s just reiterate what makes this man one of the best QB’s in recent time. For one, he’s led his team to the Lombardi Trophy in 2010, and earned a Super Bowl MVP along the way. Rodgers also has the lowest career pass-interception percentage ever, best touchdown to interception ratio in NFL history, most TD passes of 70 yards or more (with 16), has the most consecutive season with a passer rating over 100.0 (6), the only player to pass for over 4,000 yards in his first two seasons as starting QB, the list goes on, and on, and on… Although Rodgers may have had a down year in 2015 (compared to the insanely high standards he set for himself in past years), he’s poised to reestablish himself as best QB in the league, that is if Cam Newton allows him to.

31 Minnesota Vikings - Adrian Peterson (RB)

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine a 6 foot 2 inch man at 220 pounds. Now imagine that this man runs a 4.40 forty meter dash. AP is the human personification of a lion—size, strength and speed—all programmed into one (million dollar) man. It’s hard to talk about how great of a player AP is without taking into account his entire NFL career. His first season, he managed over 1,300 yards and 12 TD’s. From that point on, the Vikings decided they were going to be a pound and ground type of team, with AP leading the charge. In 2011, AP torn his ACL and MCL—an injury that was sort of like the black plague—he wasn’t expected to come back, yet alone, be the same player he was. Well the year after, he fell just 9 yards short of the single single rushing record. Nobody has been able to slow his roll since then. Just last year, he led the league in rushing yards. He’s the face of Vikings franchise, and rightfully so.

30 AFC South

29 Houston Texans - J.J. Watt (DE)

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans without J. J. Watt is like Superman without his cape, they just aren’t the same. Unfortunately, recent rumors have surfaced that Watt will be placed on the DL for an undetermined amount of time. But for the sake of praising a player that deserves every acclaim possible, he will remain the Texan’s ultimate difference maker. Watt was named defensive player of the year three times, including last season. On top of all the sacks, in the 2014 season, Watt caught 3 TD passes and returned one interception for a TD. Just last season, despite battling a groin injury and a fractured left hand, he led the league in sacks with 17.5, along with 8 passes defended and 3 forced fumbles. He is also the Texans sack and forced fumbles leader. Expect Watt to return to beast mode once he’s all healed up.

28 Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck (QB)

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Besides Luck’s injury plagued 2015 season, the Colts have made the playoffs every season he’s started at QB. In 2014, he led the league in TD passes, and in his first season, he set an NFL record for most passing yards for a rookie quarterback. Luck is also the third player in NFL history to throw for 3,000 yards in 9 games (joining the likes of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning). Now that Luck is supposedly all healed and ready to go, expect him to propell the Colts back to the playoffs. Every year he’s started all 16 games, the Colts have won 11 of them, as opposed to last year’s 8 win season. Luck is a key ingredient in a potent Colts offense that just isn’t the same without him.

27 Jacksonville Jaguars - Allen Robinson (WR)

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Robinson caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 TDs in just his second year with the Jaguars. Robinson became just 1 of 4 players to have at least a 1,400 yard season, 14 touchdowns, and averaged 17.5 yards per catch in a single season. The other three? Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson and Jerry Rice. That’s good company to be in. In addition to that, Robinson managed to set a team record for most TD catches in a season. Although the Jaguars haven’t surpassed 5 wins in the past 5 seasons, Robinson helped the Jaguars offense go from dead last in the league to 14th best. With a couple key additions to a very weak defense, and a dynamic superstar at WR, expect the Jaguars to end their miserable streak of double digit losses for 5 consecutive seasons.

26 Tennessee Titans - Marcus Mariota (QB)

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

If you feel that—on a team that improved from 2 wins in 2014 to 3 wins in 2015—it is rather trivial to point out the “ultimate difference maker,” you’d probably be right. That is, unless we’re talking about Marcus Mariota. The Heisman Trophy winner was picked 2nd overall in last year’s draft, and although his team didn’t skyrocket to playoff contention, he showed great promise as a franchise quarterback. In fact, the very 1st game of the season he put up a perfect quarterback rating against the only player that was picked before him (Jameis Winston). He became the first QB in NFL history to play a perfect game in his 1st start. Before injuring his knee in week 12, Mariota had 2,818 passing yards and 19 touchdowns. That means he was on pace for a 4,000 yard season, something only 3 other QB’s were able to do their rookie season.

25 NFC SOUTH

24 Atlanta Falcons - Julio Jones (WR)

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

For a WR to beat Antonio Brown in reception yards, that would be saying a lot, especially considering Brown almost broke the NFL record for most receptions in a single season. So it turns out, Julio Jones is an absolute beast. A product of a high school star in — track and field, basketball and football, Jones ended up running the 3rd fastest 40 yard dash, the longest long jump in the 2011 NFL combine. That being said, his raw athleticism has flawlessly transferred onto the football field, so much so, he ended up gaining the 2nd most receiving yards in a single season, ever. The Falcons obviously trust him with the ball too giving him 2x more targets than anybody else on the team. Jones also ranked top 10 in tackles missed at the WR position. He’s the team’s ultimate difference maker by being an ultimate playmaker.

23 Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton (QB)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If you could make a blueprint for the perfect quarterback, your plan would probably end up looking something like Cam Newton. He is the culmination of every trait you want in a QB, some sort of sick frankenstein creation of Dan Marino’s arm strength, Joe Montana’s accuracy, Ben Roethlisberger’s size and Michael Vick’s speed. Cam Newton became the 1st QB in NFL history to throw for more than 30 TD’s and run for more than 10 TD’s. He also led the Panthers to a one loss season and earned the league's MVP award. Although Newton gets a lot of flak for underperforming on football’s biggest stage, he continues to be the face of the National Football League. In fact, he’ll continue to learn from his mistakes, improve on his game and certainly continue to be a locker-room leader. As long as Cam Newton is out there throwing and running the ball, count on seeing a lot more superman celebrations on the football field.

22 New Orleans Saints - Drew Brees (QB)

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Now at age 37, Brees is not only considered an elite NFL quarterback, but also his team’s mentor. Although some consider Brees to be past his prime because of his age, he continues to set records and play extremely well. To this day, he looks to extend his NFL record of most consecutive seasons with 4,000 passing yards or more, currently held at 10. He also holds the record for highest completion percentage in a season with 71.2%, most 300 yard games with 94, longest streak of games with at least one passing touchdown. The list goes on and on and on. It’s hard to imagine a Saints team with Brees, but eventually the time will come sooner than later. That shouldn’t take anything away though from his stellar play at QB that continues to this day.

21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston (QB)

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft is carving his legacy, already... Never mind being the youngest player in NCAA history to win the Heisman Trophy. He became the youngest player to reach 4,000 passing yard in the NFL. Aside from the abundance of accolades Winston has achieved already, this 2nd year QB is a great football player, plain and simple. He helped the Bucks go from 2nd worse offense in 2014 (in terms of yards gained) to 5th best in the league last year. As a matter of fact, Winston became just the 2nd QB in Buccaneers history to pass for more than 4,000 yards. Not to mention his 6 rushing TD’s, a testament to his running ability as well. Although Winston will carry a question mark next to his character (until he proves us otherwise), he will probably continue to get better and better with each passing year. Buccaneers fans can get excited about this one, he’s a keeper in a QB oriented league.

20 AFC EAST

19 Buffalo Bills - Marcell Dareus (DT)

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Dareus went third overall in the 2011 draft. Through his first two years with the Bills, his expectations exceeded his performance, especially in comparison to his 2011 draft class mates (J. J. Watt, Patrick Peterson, Von Miller and Richard Sherman). But after a rough start with on and off the field issues, the defensive tackle has really grown into a star player. In fact, he’s become the leader of a “defense first” oriented team. Although Marcell’s sacks last season may not tell the same story, he is undoubtedly the Bill’s ultimate difference maker. Profocus Football rated him the highest on the team, and NFL.com rated him highest among Bill’s players. He garners an ability that isn’t quite quantifiable on the stat sheet. His football I.Q. and instinct make him one of the best run defenders in the league.

18 Miami Dolphins - Ndamukong Suh (DT)

Andrew Innerarity-USA TODAY Sports

Suh has a lot of accolades attached to his name, some good, and some bad. For one, he became the youngest player in NFL history to be fined over $200,000. He was also named the NFL’s “dirtiest player” in 2012. The same year, Forbes magazine named him the NFL’s “least-liked player.” Aside from all of the negative PR Suh has received, he became the highest paid defensive player in NFL history when he signed with the Dolphins in 2014. That’s simply incredible... Considering Suh’s naturally volatile temperament, he still managed to break the bank. If anything, this fact should be should be indicative of the phenomenal talent and raw athleticism this player garners. Although the Dolphins had a rather lackluster year at defense, expectations will be set higher now that Suh has had time to fully acclimate to his new system.

17 New England Patriots - Tom Brady (QB)

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Where would the Patriots be without Tom Brady? Maybe by now, instead of the Rams relocating cities, the Patriots would have moved. Could you imagine... the Los Angeles Patriots? I can feel all of Boston cringing at once. The craziest fact behind Brady’s legacy isn’t his undefeated regular season in 2007, or his 3 Super Bowl MVP’s, or even his 4 Super Bowl rings, but the craziest fact about Brady was that he was selected 199th in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. Forget about deflate gate, this man is one of the greatest, if not the greatest QB in NFL history. Brady holds somewhere around 20 different NFL records. He has the winningest record for QB and head coach combo. He is arguably the best post-season QB in NFL history. All fingers point to best-of-all-time. In fact, they should just change the “hall of fame” to “fame like Brady.” That seems fitting.

16 New York Jets - Brandon Marshall (WR)

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Marshall is like a good French wine, he gets better with age. In his 10 seasons starting at WR, Marshall caught the most TD’s in his career just last year. In fact, last season his signing with the Jets and helped propel them to a top 10 offensive team last year (great improvement from one of the worst offenses just the year before). He caught for 1,502 yards (3rd best in the league) and 14 touchdowns (tied for No. 1). Over his entire career, he’s been to 6 Pro Bowls, he’s the 1st WR ever to have a 1,000+ yard season with 4 different teams, and also holds the record for most receptions in a single game (21). Although Marshall has a decorated career in the NFL, one thing is still missing from his resume, and that’s a playoff appearance. Next year that may change though. The Jets hold one of the league's best defenses and a great budding offense to accompany them.

15 NFC EAST

14 Dallas Cowboys - Dez Bryant (WR)

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Last year the Cowboys were 2nd to last in offensive scoring. Little to no surprise, Dez Bryant was injured for the majority of the season. Grant it, the Cowboys lost their QB Tony Romo last season as well, so we can’t blame their wretched season on the absence of just one player. Regardless, even as a viewer at home, watching the Cowboys without Dez is like having a revolver without bullets. There is a certain lack of excitement — he’s the ignition to the engine if you will. His stats will tell you he’s a great receiver, but Dez does so much more than catch the ball and run. He’s an emotional leader, a sort of energizer bunny that can galvanize the team at any second. Whenever the Cowboys start to look flat, Dez jumps out of nowhere, catches the impossible ball, and defibrillates the team back into overdrive. He’s a priceless receiver to have, and the Cowboys aren’t giving him up anytime soon.

13 New York Giants - Odell Beckham Jr. (WR)

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Heather Van Norman once said that her son hit the “genetic jackpot.” When your son is ODB—star receiver for the New York Giants—it’s pretty hard to argue against that. ODB’s father was a star running back at LSU in the early ‘90’s. His mother is an all American track athlete. So yes, he hit the jackpot. One can argue, so did the Giants. Beckham broke a plethora of records for rookie WR’s, becoming the only player to have 75+ receptions, 1,100 yards and 10+ TD’s as a rookie. He also set the record for highest receiving yards per game as a rookie with 108.8. Just last year, he ended 5th in the league in yards and tied for 2nd with TD’s. His accomplishments go on and on. There is no reason to believe that Beckham’s legacy will stop anytime soon.

12 Philadelphia Eagles - Fletcher Cox (DT)

Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY Sports

Greatness isn’t always quantifiable and sometimes stats only tell half of the story. For Fletcher Cox, this is the case. Cox is a player with elite athleticism, great vision and great instinct. For the Eagles, the 2015 season was one to forget. They dropped to a mediocre offense and nearly worst in defense. But one bright star, a reason to get excited for the 2016 season, was Fletcher Cox. In week 5 of last season, Fletcher showed the world he was ready to be named among the elites of the league when he sacked the Saints 3 times and forced 2 fumbles. The problem is, one great player doesn’t make a great defense. Cox will need help, and a lot of it next season if he wants to lead his Eagles back to the playoffs. Eagle’s fans are feeling optimistic though because they know you always have a chance with a new coach and Fletcher Cox on your side.

11 Washington Redskins - Josh Norman (CB)

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Norman is a late bloomer. Drafted by the 5th round in 2012, Norman jumped in and out of the starting lineup for the Panthers. By 2014, Norman took advantage of an opportunity to show his worth and started to play flawlessly. He held opposing number 1 receivers to mediocre games and ranked 2nd in the league with a 46.6% catch rate. In 2015, opposing QB’s recorded a 23.1 passer rating when thrown his way, best in the league. He was a key component in helping his team reach the Super Bowl. After not being able to come to a long-term agreement with the Panthers, he signed with the Redskins and became the highest paid cornerback in the NFL. On a team that can hold their own on offense—but left much to be desired on defense—an elite cornerback is welcome. His presence automatically makes the Redskins a playoff contender.

10 AFC WEST

9 Denver Broncos - Von Miller (LB)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos knew they struck gold with their 2nd pick in the 2011 draft when Miller forced a fumble on his very 1st play from scrimmage. It’s no wonder teams pay top dollar for a premium pass rusher. When you land a linebacker like Von Miller, you eventually win the Superbowl. In fact, Miller's 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 QB hurries won him the Super Bowl MVP. He’s key component in the league’s best defense. His strength, speed and agility make him slippery like soap, offensive lineman just can’t seem to ever contain him. He’s reached double digit sacks 4 out of the 5 seasons he’s started (the one season he didn’t, he was hurt for half of it). Just recently, the Broncos went all in with Miller making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. Never a bad move when you keep a star like Miller.

8 Kansas City Chiefs - Justin Houston (LB)

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

You know you have a special player when they nearly break Michael Strahan’s single season record for sacks. In fact, Houston’s historic season in 2014 was so incredible, it can be summed up in these two statements: Justin Houston had 2 fewer sacks than DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller combined, and he had 2 more sacks than the entire Bengals team did in 2014. Yes, the entire team! His 22 sacks fell just one half sack behind the record (22.5). Unfortunately, Houston only played 11 of the 16 games in the 2015 season, he still managed to get a robust 7.5 sacks. Fortunately for the Chiefs, Houston is only 27 and he still has time to peak. Imagine that, as long as he’s able to stay healthy, the sky is the limit for Houston. It will be exciting to see what a fully healed Houston can bring back to the table, barring he experiences no setbacks on his road to recovery.

7 Oakland Raiders - Khalil Mack (LB)

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC West seems to be the division of linebackers. Among them is Khalil Mack, the youngest and most promising of them all. Mack holds the record for most forced fumbles, and tied for most tackles for a loss in the NCAA. Understandably so, the Raiders selected him 5th overall in the 2014 draft. In his first season, Mack fell just behind Aaron Donaldson and C. J. Mosley for defensive rookie of the year. Then 2015 happened... He shifted to defensive end (split time with the outside linebacker position) and wreaked havoc on opposing QB’s. He finished 2nd in the league with 15 sacks just behind J. J. Watt. In week 14, Mack cemented his status as premier pass rusher when he sacked the (soon-to-be Super Bowl champs) Denver, Broncos 5 times! The bottom line is — Khalil Mack looks like an absolute monster on the field and he’s only 25. Raiders fans finally have something to cheer for again, and they have Khalil Mack to thank for it.

6 San Diego Chargers - Philip Rivers (QB)

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The face of the Chargers franchise is Philip Rivers. It’s been that way since they choose him over Drew Brees back in 2006. The problem is, the Chargers have only made it to the playoffs once in the past 6 years. River though, has not been a letdown. He is among the elites in the league, and although he may be criticized for cracking under pressure, he continues to put numbers up. The failure of a team seldom falls on the responsibility of one player. This is the case for the Chargers. Rivers is doing his part, in fact, he just threw for the most yards of his career last season. The Chargers have added a couple of missing pieces this offseason in the draft. They have the potential to compete for a playoff appearance, but road will always be hard as long as the Broncos stand in your way.

5 NFC WEST

4 Arizona Cardinals - Carson Palmer (QB)

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Form the point that Arians took over as head coach, and Carson Palmer was handed the reins to the offense, the Cardinals have become one of the most feared teams in the NFL. Their elite defense stifles opposing teams and their offense goes straight for the throat. When Carson Palmer went to the Raiders after his decorated career with the Bengals, he looked dried up and ready for retirement. It turns out, he just needed the right environment to rejuvenate his offensive skills. Just last season, at age 36, Palmer threw for more yards than he ever had, threw for the highest TD% of his career, also managed the lowest interception % of his career. There must be something about the Cardinals that makes them a great home for elite QB’s at the end of their career. Like Kurt Warner did in 2008, don’t be surprised if Palmer and company make a run for Super Bowl stardom.

3 Los Angeles Rams - Aaron Donald (DE)

Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams invested in their future when they traded the 2nd overall pick to the Redskins in 2012. In return they received 3 first rounds picks for the next three years. In the end, the Rams basically traded RGIII for Donald (and company). Sound like a good trade? You’re damn right it was. How the Rams had the foresight to make this deal? The world isn’t really sure. His rookie year, Donald ravaged offensive lines and won himself the Rookie of the Year award. He finished last year with 11 sacks. He also led all DT with 22 tackles for a loss, finishing just behind J. J. Watt and Khalil Mack in the standings. He’s got the type of talent that all offenses have to game plan around — he’s so disruptive and in your face, trying to hold him down is like trying to catch a fly with chopsticks.

2 San Francisco 49ers - NaVorro Bowman (LB)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers finished last in their division for the 1st time in 10 years. Needless to say, there wasn’t much to cheer about for 49ers fans this last season. Aside from their depressing season, there was one thing to feet optimistic about, and that was NaVorro Bowman. 49ers fans were happy to see someone carry on the legacy of Patrick Willis. Bowman ended up leading the league in solo tackles and combined tackles. He’s Mr. Everywhere man, with the most dependable tackle in the league. What’s more impressive, Bowman tore his MCL and ACL the season before. He came back in full force and showed the league why he can be a difference maker. The problem is, the 49ers lack an offense. In fact, they were the worst in the league. As they say, sometimes the best form of defense is a good offense.

1 Seattle Seahawks - Richard Sherman (CB)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

You can make the argument that at least 5 players on the Seahawks are “ultimate difference makers.” The truth is, the Seahawks are the epitome of teamwork, and in all honesty, it’s hard to attribute the success of this team to just one player. But one thing the Seahawks are known for is their defense, and the leader of the “legion of boom” is Richard Sherman. The Seahawks garner the best defense in the league for the past 4 years (least points scored against), which ironically enough, started the year after they drafted Sherman. His abilities extend so much further than just defense on the football field — he’s the master of playing mind games and getting into the head of his opponent, he’s also a great emotional leader for the defense. His fiery passion exudes from every pore of his being, a sort of energy that the rest of the defensive can feed off of. From the moment Sherman proclaimed on live national television, “I’m the best corner in the game!” the world’s eyes opened and eventually found out he wasn’t lying.

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Every NFL Team's Top Difference Maker